Posts Tagged “human rights”
Jun 30, 2020
What the book is about
We misunderstand the relationship between nature and nurture, culture and biology, fitting in and being oneself. This book is an attempt to pull apart those strands.
I too come from a long line of poisonous men.
Changes while transitioning
I was like a plant in the sun, moving toward whatever was rewarded in me: aggression, ambition, fearlessness.
Before, I was a softie, quick to apologize, generally more concerned with keeping the peace than proving a point. Now, I had to work harder to not take things personally.
Treatment difference as a woman/man
Me: I wish you could experience how differently people react to me now that I’m a man.
My brother: I can’t imagine, but I can imagine.
As the testosterone took hold and reshaped my body, its impact as an object in space grew increasingly bewildering: the expectation that I not be afraid juxtaposed against the fear I inspired in a woman, alone on a dark street; the silencing effect of my voice in a meeting; the unearned presumption of my competence; my power; my potential.
To be clear, the Before me wasn’t feminine. I don’t know what it’s like to be wolf-whistled or be told to smile. […] Six months into my transition, testosterone made my voice low. […] But when I did talk, people didn’t just listen; they leaned in. […] The first time I spoke up in a meeting […], in my newly quiet baritone, I noticed that sudden, focused attention and was so uncomfortable I found myself unable to finish the sentence. […] Every day, I was rewarded for behavior that I was previously punished for, such as standing up for my ideals, pushing back, being fluent in complex power dynamics, and strategically—and visibly—taking credit. When I proved myself, just once, it tended to stick.
Male loneliness and lack of touch
I’d gotten the idea from movies that men spent a lot of time in amenable, intimate silences, laced through will well-placed words that telegraphed deep truths, like the pivotal scene in every drama about fathers and sons. I supposed I had indeed spent a lot more time not knowing what to say since my transition. Silence was a kind of defense mechanism.
I fell all the absences my male body created too: the cool distance of friends in tough moments, stemming to some degree from the self-conscious way I held myself apart from women especially, so concerned with being perceived as a threat that I’d become a ghost instead.
Though I had been supported by friends and family, something had indeed dimmed. Pretty much everyone treated my body as if it were radioactive. It was easy to blame it on repressed or explicit homophobia in men, or straight women friends’ latent concerns about sending the wrong signals in our suddenly cross-gender friendships, but that didn’t explain the family members who did not hug me after my mom died, or why, in boxing, guys I barely knew swatted my ass, or draped an arm around my shoulders for minutes at a time. The code of how and why I was and wasn’t touched was a mystery to me.
My interest in being held hadn’t waned. I couldn’t make sense of what lack of touch had to do with gender. It seemed, to me, a core hunger of being human.
“Tell me,” Way said to the kids, “why did that boy kill so many people?” A few volunteered that he was “crazy.” “But tell me why he’s crazy,” she said. “He was lonely.”
Toxic masculinity / misogyny
And in an era in which the former surgeon general of the United States calls loneliness an “epidemic” because of its links to ill health and even increased risk of premature death, why do to many men who were once boys, boys who may have seen their love of their close friends as “human nature”, struggle to maintain any friends at all as adults?
According to [Niobe] Way, a psychology professor at New York University, everything changes between sixteen and nineteen (this age range also coincides with a rise in male suicide rates). That’s when boys learn that to be too close to guy friends is, she said, abruptly labeled “girlie” and “gay”.
Within this limiting context boys learn that violence is the only way available to them to bond. “In a messed-up society that doesn’t offer them opportunities for healthy connections, they go into unhealthy connections,” she told me.
Comparing the Danish idea of masculinity with the American one, she found that the major difference between them was that in Denmark, men said to “be a man” meant to being a boy. American men said that to “be a man” was to not be a woman.
Testosterone effects, violence
I couldn’t argue with [testosterone’s] power. […] It was easy to attribute every change to the oily potion I injected weekly into my thigh: the clarity of color, the shortness of my temper, the increase in my sex drive, the charley horses in my quads, the calming of my nerves, the steadiness of my stride. It was stunning, and disconcerting, to become a caricature of a man so easily.
In humans, if testosterone is raised to an artificial level, as in steroid abuse, aggression levels rise. But for men with testosterone in the normal range, […] “there is remarkably little evidence” that knowing which man has the highest testosterone levels predicts which is the most aggressive. […] [John] Wingfield showed that testosterone increases not aggression, exactly, but the likelihood that men would do whatever they need to maintain their status if it was challenged. […] He pointed to studies rooted in economic games where winning requires being more cooperative and pro-social. “Testosterone makes people more generous in that realm”. But studies demonstrate that the myths about testosterone impact those games too. Men who were actually given more testosterone became more generous, but men who merely thought they were operating with elevated T became less effective and more competitive. […] “The problem is the frequency with which we reward aggression”.
“Did you ever wonder why so many men who believe that testosterone propels men’s violence, why they beat their wives up but not their boss? Your boss makes you feel like shit, your boss is an asshole—why don’t you beat him up? Because he has power over you, that’s why. He’s not a legitimate target.”
A “legitimate target,” [Michael] Kimmel said, is someone men feel entitled to dominate—someone seen as weaker, someone who has less power than them. For the worst sort of masculinity to work, “real men” prove their worth by targeting people they can beat.
Masculinity crisis in the media
I suspected that the crisis was far more complex than people understood. It encompassed all men, even the ones who felt they successfully defied outdated conventions. It was, after all, the men who read books on emotional intelligence and wore tailored shirts who often advised me to treat dating like warfare, or to dominate meetings with primate body language.
Later surveys and studies would suggest that Millenial men as a whole turned out to be as “traditional”, and even less egalitarian, in their attitudes toward gender as their fathers.
This is a short, interesting book that gives perspectives on masculinity. I wasn’t as enlightening as I had hoped, but it was still a good read. One of my pet peeves is that I thought some of the assumptions about masculinity and how men behave were US-centric and kind of toxic (I really didn’t see myself or the men I know in some of the descriptions and assumptions), but I still recommend it if the topic sounds interesting to you.
Dec 14, 2010
This is the fifth (and final) part of my summary of the book “Ending Slavery” by Kevin Bales. You can read the first, second, third and fourth parts in this same blog. This fifth part will cover the chapters “Ending the (product) chain”, “Ending poverty to end slavery to end poverty to end slavery”, the coda and the appendix.
Ending the (product) chain
A lot of the commodities and products we buy have a little bit of slavery in them (documented cases: food, cotton, iron, steel, gold, diamonds, shoes & clothing, fireworks, rugs and carpets, bricks…). The problem is, it’s almost impossible to know which shirt or chocolate bar brings slavery into our home. Our first reaction might be boycott, but they can hurt the innocent more than the guilty: poor farmers have to fight against subsidised farmers and with their neighbours using slaves. If consumers also turn against the poor farmers not using slaves, the result can be even more slaves. This is a problem that can’t normally be fixed at the point of purchase. The point to stop slavery is where it’s happening.
Companies that use slave material always give excuses to not fight slavery. Already in 1850, the American slave cotton industry said it wasn’t illegal (not valid now), that they didn’t have the responsibility of making rules or act like police in a foreign country, and if they didn’t, their competitors would and they would be driven out of business.
When a law was going to be passed to require chocolate companies to have a slave-free label (in 2001), they were alarmed because no one could figure out a way to prove that some cocoa was slave-free. So the companies started lobbying against the law, pointing to the impossibility to find enough cocoa that could be guaranteed to be slave-free, so there was a compromise: the law would not be passed if the companies agreed to work with labour and anti-slavery groups to remove slavery from their product chain (the “Harkin-Engel protocol”). Three crucial action points:
A binding memorandum was signed by all stakeholders to agree on and setup a plan forward.
Create a joint international foundation paid by the companies but run by a mixture of businesses, human rights groups and unions. They would do the research and run projects to take child labour and slavery out of the cocoa production.
Put in place a “credible, mutually acceptable, voluntary, industry-wide standard of public certification, consistent with federal law” that cocoa wasn’t grown with child- or slave-labour.
The protocol was a historic document, the first “treaty” between an industry and anti-child-labour and anti-slavery movements. And it was quite precise in the plan of action, but not everything went to plan. The two biggest problems were:
The survey of the farms was carried out by an organisation specialised in African agriculture, but didn’t know about slavery, hence it didn’t ask the right questions.
Underestimating what it would take to mount a “credible, mutually acceptable […]” by 2005. What makes it “credible”, who issues the “certificate”, and what does it certify? Plus the monitoring takes place within sovereign countries.
However, the protocol shows an important new way consumers and businesses can take part in eradicating slavery. It also showed how two US politicians could use pressure so fight slavery around the world.
Another example of “slave-free” mark is the RUGMARK system. Although proving that a particular rug without the mark has been indeed made by slaves is normally impossible, strong circumstantial evidence exists given the large number of enslaved workers. Also, RUGMARK and other anti-slavery groups have been very active publishing the facts of child slavery so few retailers could be ignorant of the strong possibility that they’re dealing with slave goods.
Ending poverty to end slavery to end poverty to end slavery
If we haven’t had great human or economic progress in 50 years, doesn’t fighting slavery make things harder? New research suggests than development is taking so long because we haven’t tackled slavery. Ending slavery might be one of the best weapons to fight poverty.
Robert Smith has studied why some poor countries have made much progress and others haven’t. He divided 139 countries into regional groups and measured development with UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), and included slavery and human trafficking, making the first large-scale study of modern development. The amount of slavery is what better explains the differences between countries, more than level of democracy, national debt, civil conflict or corruption. The analysis shows that in poor areas, slavery is the worst enemy of growth and living a decent life, not just for slaves but for everyone. Slavery is a major cause of depressed economies, low literacy levels and shorter lifespans for all citizens.
Combating poverty helps to end slavery, and viceversa. Ending slavery can have a significant impact on poverty (both for slaves and non-slaves). A great deal of thought and resources go to end poverty, rather less for slavery. What is clear is that these goals should go together, as the combined strength is greater than the sum of parts.
Coda: What you can do to end slavery
The cost of flying someone to help in a poor country would pay a full-time salary of an anti-slavery worker for a year. The most effective way to combat slavery is joining an organisation like FreeTheSlaves and give $10/month. Anti-slavery workers have enough to worry, they should be certain about funds. Although large donations are welcome, what the anti-slavery movement needs is small, regular donations.
Raising awareness about slavery is really easy: there are good books, films, web sites and blogs introducing people to slavery. For example, “How to combat modern slavery”, the TED talk that made me interested in the topic in the first place, or the video page in freetheslaves.net.
Appendix: Measuring the effectiveness of anti-slavery work
Characteristics of successful programs:
Flexibility to adapt to the local context, with programs that change yearly.
Evidence of leadership and problem solving ability within front-line workers.
A range of local, independent programs rooted in the affected communities. Those are better than large, multiregional programs.
Programs with secure financial base: multiple funders and multiyear funding (even if the funding is not large).
And this is, finally, the end of the (very long) summary. I hope you liked it :-)
Dec 13, 2010
This is the fourth part of my summary of the book “Ending Slavery” by Kevin Bales. You can read the first, second and third parts in this same blog. This fourth part will cover the chapter “Global problem, global reach”.
Global problem, global reach
Slavery is global. Need to find a how to use global organisations to fight it. This chapter is about how groups like the UN, WTO and World Bank can help.
The United Nations
The Slavery Convention was created in 1926. It is important because it was the first time the world agreed officially that slavery must end and in even tried to define it. It was important in three ways: (1) it set the moral position, (2) it was the first global treaty to ban slavery and (3) it addressed slavery “in all its forms”. However, it wasn’t such a practical instrument to end slavery.
The International Labour Organisation was established in 1919. It 1998 it issued the Declaration of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This opened the door for Anti-Slavery International to lobby and in 2001 the ILO Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labour was created. An in-depth investigation was undertaken, which resulted in a global report in 2005 that helped bring the subject to the notice of governments. This research is so clearly documented that it can be repeated in a few years to compare. Because incredibly, no one knows if slavery is growing or shrinking, or how many slaves are men, women or children.
One of the reasons the UN and ILO don’t do more against slavery is that they’re completely dependent on its member nations. The UN is anything but democratic, because one primary body exercises the most control: the Security Council. It has five permanent members (Great Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States) and 10 rolling members elected on a rolling basis, allowed to participate for two years but not be re-elected. The General Assembly can recommend, but only the Security Council can decide. The five permanent members have veto power. Two examples:
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Two countries failed to vote for it: Somalia, which didn’t have a functioning government that could vote for anything) and the US, which in part argued that it would ban 17-year-olds from military service.
International Criminal Court, an idea first explored in 1946. Idea: court where individuals could bring cases of fundamental human right violations when their national courts were unwilling/unable to give them a hearing. The US is now its most vigorous enemy. It joined six other countries (Iraq, Israel, China, Yemen, Libya and Qatar) to vote against it. As countries began to ratify the convention, the US bullied them shamelessly, threatening to pull foreign aid, credits, education grants, unless they promised the US a special exemption from the court’s jurisdiction (see p. 150 for references).
The UN can play a role no other can perform, but the cooperation of the Security Council is needed. That doesn’t need to be complex or difficult, and can be broken into clear and easy steps. It starts with the appointment of a special representative of the secretary-general on slavery. One of its main products is an in-depth report that assesses a problem and gives specific recommendations for addressing it. A special representative on slavery would not be revolutionary, and one is needed for two reasons:
the UN work on slavery is piecemeal and uncoordinated: he could resolve the different conventions since 1926 into a coherent single statement (slavery is one of the few crimes with “jus cogens” status, meaning all countries agree it’s illegal everywhere, all the time and no country is allowed to make it legal)
The UN needs a much more robust response to slavery (the Security Council passed a resolution in 2005 on children and armed conflict, but the only actions were monitor and report). It could be achieved by the Special Representative organising a Security Council meeting about slavery. This meeting would have 4 objectives:
1. Make it clear the UN is serious about it 2. Demonstrate that the Security Council supports the work of the Special Representative and the secretary-general 3. Make the Security Council set up a small group of experts to review all existing UN conventions 4. Make the Security Council establish a commission to determine how the existing UN inspection mandate could be extended to slavery (the inspection mandate is what made the UN look for weapons in Iraq and ultimately punish when there wasn't cooperation; see p. 153-155).
Other ways in which the UN can help (p. 156):
Bread: although the food the WFP (World Food Programme) delivers is sometimes the difference between life and death, dropping large amounts of free food in a weak economy can threaten the viability of local agriculture, increasing poverty and vulnerability to exploitation. It has its uses though: free lunches in a local school quells the hunger that pushes many parents to give their children for promises of jobs, it draws children to school where they get education and helps them crawl out of poverty, and it’s much more likely that teachers come every day. The UN food programme knows how to get food to the people who need it. Only two steps are needed to make it fight slavery as well: (1) build awareness of slavery into its planning, and (2) make sure it has the resources to assemble a special unit that searches out and attacks slavery through food aid.
Pills: when slaves come to freedom, one of the first things they need is medical care for their children and themselves. If the World Health Organisation incorporates slavery, when health workers find slaves they will recognise them and liberation will be hastened. Medical care for them will improve their chances of staying out. This is just adding slavery sensitivity, like when gender sensitivity was added as part of UN policies.
Guns: if a UN peacekeeper force can open the door, other UN agencies can bring the food, education and medical care that ensures lasting freedom.
Roses: UNESCO has the kind of global reach for a campaign to end slavery. Its programs filter into schools.
Satellites: slavery is often hidden in unmapped areas, but they’re hard to hide from satellites, especially as usually they destroy the environment and those scars are visible.
The World Bank
The World Bank, by its own definition, focuses on ending poverty. A lot of money goes to projects in developing countries, but a lot of money comes back as repayments and interest.
The World Bank could add anti-slavery requirements to the list of requirements that governments have to meet to get funding for specific projects. They have already announced that the Bank won’t approve any loan that undermines human rights, but they have to go further and be more specific.
And that’s it for now. The next (and last!) post will cover chapters “Ending the (product) chain”, “Ending poverty to end slavery to end poverty to end slavery”, the coda and the appendix.
Dec 12, 2010
This chapter bashes Japan big time. I’m not sure how much of it I should buy, but I can’t think of a reason why the author should be so biased against the country either.
It is surprising that there are so many slaves in modern, hightly educated, economically prosperous Japan. That there have been so many women imported for years with the support of the government is even more surprising until you have a look at Japanese culture.
The sex business is changing from old-fashioned brothels, strip clubs and others (with high overhead, meaning customers have to pay $300-$500 for sex) to “fashion massage shops”, staffed by heavily exploited foreign workers ($50-$90 for sex). Down the ladder, sex with foreign women on the street is $8-$10. All this is known as the “entertainment industry” in Japan. And prostitution is actually not legal in Japan, but its definition is only intravaginal heterosexual acts: anything else is legal and not regulated. Also, the law punishes solicitation (prostitutes are arrested and punished).
The Japanese government does a lot about illegal sex trade. To support it. For 20 years there has been a special kind of visa: the “entertainer visa”. Presumably it’s for singers/dancers, but then Japan has more than any country in the world (see graph on p. 109). What other country loves music so much that they need 133,103 singers/dancers in a single year? For a country that donates relatively large sums of money to combat poverty and disease around the world, being exposed like this was humiliating. The response was a lot of talk and an “action plan” with very little action, resulting in an increase from 6 to 25 victims found and protected. If there are tens of thousands of slaves in Japan, the government has only managed to find less than 1%. This could be expected in poor and rural countries, but Japan may be the best policed democracy in the world.
They use the kōban system, a one-room mini-police station with a territory of 1/5 of a square mile, an area most people would consider their neighbourhood. The police basically knows everyone and their business, very little happens without the police knowing. Comment: If I’m to believe Wikipedia, there are around 6,000 kōban and 127 million people in Japan. That’d mean more than 20,000 people per k_ō_ban?? Can they really know everything that is happening?. This police returns women, that came to seek help, to the traffickers. For women who are working in remote areas of Japan, it’s almost impossible to escape. Something is wrong if victims fear the police, crime is pervasive and officially ignored, and the flow of victims is increasing.
To fully understand slavery in Japan, one has to study racism in the country. No law prohibits racial discrimination. Comment: I found anecdotal evidence that Japan might have _racism _issues, but it might also be just cultural differences misinterpreted. Outside of many public places you can find signs which deny admittance to non-Japanese. There is a general view that women are inferior. Question: American prejudice? I found anecdotal evidence that it might be the case, that differences between men and women are not bigger than in the US. Domestic violence is an unmeasured ugly current. there was no clear law against it until 2002, and police routinely ignores assaults by husbands. Question: no references of this? that’s quite a bold statement without references! When meeting the NGO workers in Japan, the author was told they felt fighting not just criminals but the entire structure of government and culture.
Within four months of entering office, Lula set up a National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labour as a permanent part of the government. Perhaps for the first time in history, a government proceeded in the right way, making sure everything was in place before taking action. The plan had some excellent ideas: the law against slavery would be tightened and the penalties increased. One of the strongest new proposals was very radical: expropriation without compensation of land belonging to slaveholders. It was suggested to distribute the land to poor, land-less workers to avoid re-enslavement (up to 40% of people freed had been freed more than once, pointing to a cycle of poverty, economic crisis and enslavement). The plan also established a “dirty list” of companies and people that used slave labour. Those on the list would be excluded from receiving funds, grants or credits from the government. Since much of the process of opening or developing land relies on government tax credits or supports, they would be driven out of business.
The plan achieved immediate and dramatic results. In 2003 the number of freed slave more than doubled, to 4,879. There was some fight back, and in 2004 three officials from the labour ministry and their driver were murdered while investigating farms.
There may be no country in the world doing a better job, but it wasn’t perfect. More than 600 rural landlords were caught with slaves, but none went to prison, no property confiscated, and many continued their activities. The government needs to make the number of prosecutions, convictions and punishments public: transparency would help the public understand the tremendous task and potential for historic achievement. The UN has been critical with this lack of transparency and has pointed out the discrepancy between the number of freed slaves and the convictions.
Farms, mines and companies on the dirty list feed a supply chain that flows to US importers and customers. We need to face that we’re part of the process and we as consumers must ask companies to examine their supply chains. Cutting the demand for slave-made products is important, but there are a lot of steps in the supply chain. It’s much more effective to make sure that the Brazilian Special Mobile Inspection Groups, anti-slavery squads, etc. have the money they need to get their job done. The debt that Brazil services every year accounts for millions and it could be better spent on important programs like education and anti-slavery work that would stimulate the economy. Given that the US economy benefits from slavery in Brazil, it seems fair to give some back in the form of debt forgiveness.
What governments can do to end slavery
Nearly every country in the world needs its unique set of responses to slavery. There are many common elements, but the mix varies per country. In rich countries it’s just a matter of priorities and resources. For all other countries, there are key foundation blocks:
Stop looking for the quick fix. Slavery is obviously a legal problem, but it’s also economic development, migration, gender discrimination, ethnic prejudice, corruption and political will. No quick fix, like busting up brothels, buying people out of slavery or passing laws (without making sure they’re enforced) will eliminate slavery.
Focus on outcomes.
Build a robust legal response. Once a clear picture of trafficking and enslavement is available, a country can build a legal response that deals with the crime. Some countries/languages have a special name for ex-slaves and an informal apartheid system that keeps them powerless. The law that decriminalises victims has to be explicit in that the consent of the victim is irrelevant. International law is clear that people can’t legally hand themselves over to slavery.
Build a dedicated law enforcement team.
Protect and support freed slaves. This help/support should be given no matter where the freed slave has come from.
Raise awareness and promote prevention. Governments can increase public awareness of slavery and trafficking like public health: with advertising and education campaigns. These should also be public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims of enslavement. Many ex-slaves say they didn’t know their enslavement was illegal until their liberators told them.
Use diplomacy, trade and foreign aid to end slavery.
Call out the army (and navy and air force).
And that’s it for now. The next post will cover chapter “Global problem, global reach”.
Dec 9, 2010
This is the second part of my summary of “Ending Slavery”, by Kevin Bales. You can read the first part in this same blog. This second part will cover chapters “Rescuing slaves today” and ”Home-grown freedom”.
Rescuing slaves today
In one of the rescue stories, children have been told by their holders that they need to hide when the police comes, because they’ll hurt or kill them, and they have come to believe it. When trying to free them, children freeze when grabbed by the strangers that storm in. Others hide and others scream and fight their rescuers. Police is unhelpful, and when told to arrest the slaveholders, they turn their heads away: they’re not going to get into trouble with the rich men that run the village.
Once the 12-minute raid is over, the slaveholders send messages to the police so they stall or obstruct the rescue plan. As soon as the report is filed, it can be freely accessed, including the slaveholder or his lawyer. Names of the person filing, the ex-slave, his parents, their location or villages they come from are all here. While the police drag their feet, the slaveholders intimidate or bribe witnesses, manufacture evidence, etc. Every report filed can lead to a case lasting 3 years on average, sometimes much longer. Only the person filing is allowed to bring it forward. If anything happens to that person, the case dies.
Money alone won’t solve the problem. Have to change laws, minds, customs and ways of making business. There are six things that will help liberators:
Protect the liberators, e.g. making them “public figures”. That way it’s harder to attack them.
Give them tools to do their job. Cell phones and jeeps could help a lot. In some cases they go to remote rural areas by bike. Schools can keep children out of slavery, and you can keep one for less than $5000/year. The end of slavery partly depends on these small expenditures.
Write and enforce effective antislavery laws. They typically have small penalties (considering it’s usually kidnapping, torture, theft, assault and often rape all combined in one).
Train, motivate and mobilize law enforcement. There are around the same number of murders in the US than people trafficked, but while more than 12/17 thousand murders will be cleared, only over 100 trafficking cases are brought to court.
“Clone” the liberators. More will come as people learn about slavery in their own countries.
Help freed slaves heal so the liberators have time and energy to free other slaves.
Apart from this, there are other things. When liberators are asked, they often reply with big picture factors apart from local conditions. However, there are now hundreds of thousands waiting to be freed, and they must be freed. They are dying now.
There are areas where only slaves live. The Kols (near India’s bottom of the caste ladder) in an area called Sonebarsa, are all slaves in hereditary bondage. Most of them don’t know what freedom means: they require permission to sit, move around, eat or drink. For these people, the breakthrough came in 1998, with the question “why don’t we get our own mining lease?”. After months waiting for the lease, the slaveholders discovered what they were doing and they were thrown out. They didn’t have a place to stay or anything to eat, and they had to survive by eating weeds and roots, not knowing if they would get the lease. When they got it after all, their productivity shot up, they put their kids in school, and local tax officials were shocked because they started getting money.
People in rich countries may feel they don’t have much to learn from poor countries, and that might be one of our greatest failings. Ex-slaves have a remarkable dignity and lack of bitterness: they seem too busy with their new freedoms to hate anybody. It’s easy to see slaves as victims, helpless and dependent, but that misses their resilience, strength, endurance, intelligence and compassion.
When fighting to end slavery, it doesn’t make sense that a rich foreigner tells a family that the children can’t work on the farm anymore if that means that the family income will drop to the point that the children will start to go hungry. Real change has to come from the community. As this is a global problem, using the power of governments sounds like the way to go, but the most efficient engine for freeing up slaves and keep them free is when a community makes the concious decision to do just that. More slaves are freed by community organisation than in any other way. They’re also freed more efficiently and their freedom is more permanent.
To help these communities, there are six points (compare to the above for liberators):
Thinking and being free. When they make the concious decision, their freedom is more durable. To stay free, people need mental tools to endure the change and money to survive while they get a new source of income.
One size does not fit all. The things that stop people from leaving slavery can be surprising. For example, there was an elderly couple afraid for their hut. When shown a new place where they could safely build a new one, their intense desire for freedom took over. There are obstacles that might be invisible to our eyes. Another way to get insight into their lives is creating useful services, so slaves gain trust in the antislavery workers by showing they’re really interested in their well-being.
“Clone” the liberators (again). To get to know and gain trust of communities in slavery, people leaving in remote, dangerous areas are needed. Finding those people is challenging. Make it easy for people who want, to actually move.
Prepare for the backslash. Decide the risk together with communities, and if it’s worth it. Slaveholders will react, the question is how to mitigate. Everyone involved has to understand the dangers and prepare for them.
Plan for the worst. When houses start burning, what to do? When people are homeless, where are they going to live? Forging connections with powerful people that will protect slaves. The presence of foreign observers has saves lives many times.
We all go together. Slaves are not free from prejudices themselves. The first step to freedom is getting women to come together and resist violence in their own homes. Experience the power of resisting violence and learning the right to feel safe. Give confidence to protect themselves and children from trafficking.
A community of ex-slaves will need this to stay free:
Immediate access to paid work. The sooner they work, the sooner stability arrives.
A chance to build up savings. Slavery is often the result of not having a fall-back for a crisis.
Access to basic services, like schools and clinics. Having clean water can save women and children hours a day, improving productivity. Planning for freedom implies asking men and women which services there are and what they need.
Working with the earth. Slaves often work destroying environment. This destruction impacts poor people the most, and leads them to slavery. Sustained freedom means sustainable environment as well. Seeds and a hoe can make a big difference.
What funders and anti-slavery groups need to work well together:
Reliable funding. Normally no large sums are needed, just a steady flow. For many, liberation takes time. People in slavery has a lot of insecurity, so antislavery groups must be reliable. They can’t run out of money in the middle of a liberation. More important than size of gift is regularity.
Flexibility. Need to listen to slave communities, and be responsive to those needs. If that means changing from health care to micro-credits, so be it. The goal is freedom, not a “successful” project that doesn’t get freedom.
Assembling the toolkit. Antislavery groups need a good understanding of and ability to use any antislavery tools and laws at their disposal. Building that expertise needs support.
Critical thinking and funding. Local antislavery groups need to think critically to get the job done. Need to identify what blocks freedom and go for it. It’s harder than it sounds when they’re stuck in a village and the funder has rules about what they support and how they fund it. If there’s not a category for what they really need, it’s tempting to go for something else they know they can get. The challenge is increasing understanding and trust between the workers on the ground and the funders.
People in slavery know best what they need to reach freedom. Outsiders can share ideas, protection and resources, but the solution has to convince and be owned by the people fighting to leave slavery.
No matter what laws are passed or what UN resolutions promulgated, slavery ends when the community decides to and takes action. Slavery is woven into the fabric of life at our neighbourhoods, and has to be cut out of that fabric by those who understand where the threads are hidden and how they’re knotted with corruption, indifference, racism of greet.
And that’s all for now. The next post will cover the “Governments” chapter.
Dec 9, 2010
Ending Slavery is a book about modern slavery and the possibility of ending slavery forever. It defines slavery, shows that there is still a lot in this world, explains how it works, why it still exists, why people end up in slavery, and finally it describes a plan to end it once and for all. It’s a very good book, although sometimes I wished that there were less “stories” and more “information”. That said, the summary ended up being huge, especially for a relatively small book (250 pages).
This first post will cover the introduction, and the chapters “The Challenge” and “Building the Plan”. Other posts will cover “Rescuing slaves today”, “Home-grown freedom”, “Governments”, “Global problem, global reach”, “Ending the product chain”, “Ending poverty to end slavery to end poverty to end slavery” and the coda and appendix.
5000 years of slavery can end forever, as well as 200 years of pretending we don’t have slavery. We just need a plan, and this book helps in laying it out. Freedom is not just possible, it’s inevitable, for the seed of freedom grows and grows. Our job is to nourish those seeds.
It used to be clear for everyone what slavery was. It was defined and protected by law. When it became illegal, many people thought it was over, and it became less clear what slavery is. In essence, slavery it controlling people through violence and using them to earn money. It doesn’t depend on the duration.
In modern times, slaves are cheap and disposable. Three factors after World War II led to resurgence of slavery:
World population explosion: from 2 to over 6 billion people in about 50 years, most in the developing world.
Dramatic social and economic changes. As colonies gained independence, they opened to western businesses. In that process, the poor were left behind and they had even less opportunities and resources. If we compare poverty and slavery levels, the pattern is obvious.
Police corruption, In rich countries there’s slavery in spite of the police. In many other countries it flourishes because of it. If the policeman salary is $10/$20 a month, getting $100 extra a month is the difference between being able to feed your children and have electricity or not. Question: how was “corruption” measured?
Looking at everything supporting slavery, it’s discouraging: world poverty, corruption, greed, population explosion, environmental destruction, armed conflicts that impoverishes countries, international debt, governments not applying laws. But not everything has to be done at once, and not everything has to be solved to end slavery. People in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.5 to 1.1 billion people (from 1981 to 2001) even with the world population increasing. Many changes are already taking place, just need a plan to support them.
Building the plan
When releasing slaves, freedom is the beginning, not the end (as in most of the challenges start then). The obvious thing when a slave is freed would be to consult the body of knowledge by doctors and psychologists, except it doesn’t exist. It’s being compiled now.
When freeing a slave making rugs, some questions point at us: who buys them? do the wholesale vendors know they’re profiting from slavery? how do we differentiate slave rugs from others? If we stopped buying rugs, would that help slaves? Ending slavery is solving a lot of puzzles. Did rich countries end slavery, or did they move it to other countries while keeping the benefits without the moral discomfort?
Key ingredients to end slavery:
Public awareness. We have three advantages over abolitionists in the past: (a) the moral argument is already won, (b) the monetary value of slavery is very small, it doesn’t threaten any country’s livelyhood, and (c) for the most part, laws are already in place. The missing link is governments enforcing laws: until it reaches the public agenda there will be slaves.
Education. Many slaves are tricked into it, violence only comes when it’s too late to escape. It’s an ancient method. Education is key to fight slavery, but we’re hardly taking advantage of it. There are large sums for teen pregnancy and drugs, but how much for slavery? Question: it that a good argument? Training is needed in law enforcement too. The US spends more than any other country in law enforcement, but it was only in 1998 that a human trafficking task force was created. It has started training police, but has been criticized for being low-priority and haphazard. Question: by whom?
Honest law enforcement. In poor countries, police not only needs training, but overhauls to remove corruption. If the pay is poor, they’ll find ways to make more cash. Corruption levels there now are similar to those in the US in the 19th century.
Economic support for anti-slavery workers.
Rehabilitation. Essential to sustained freedom. Some return to slavery by choice, because they only find insecurity. Without help to create a new life, people often can’t by themselves. When equipped with skills and education, ex-slaves are empowered and committed to end slavery, become village leaders, and are not afraid of confronting police. A single ex-slave can change a whole village.
The UN millennium development goal for 2015: provide every child in the world with basic education. That’d be around $28 billion, and while it sounds like a lot that’s what Michigan charities spend a year, the personal wealth of IKEA’s owner, or what Philip-Morris had to pay a single person who sued them.
There are other costs: anticorruption campaigns, debt reduction, police training, rehabilitation, training/paying anti-slavers workers. But in the end, there’s profit in ending slavery.
And that’s it for now. The next post will cover ”Rescuing slaves today” and “Home-grown freedom”.